Not too long ago, Paul Giamatti ventured into the history of the United States in the Emmy-nominated HBO miniseries John Adams. Now Variety reports he’ll go back into the past with HBO yet again: the actor is attached to play Nikita Khrushchev in a film chronicling the Soviet Union leader’s 13-day American sojourn in September 1959, a time when Cold War tensions between the world superpowers were running high. Tom Hanks’ Playtone is collaborating with HBO to produce the project, still in the early stages of development; Paul Bernbaum (Next, Hollywoodland) will write the script. Though it sounds like a poignant dive into history, details after the jump illustrate why this may be a little less heavy than something like John Adams.
Aside from the attempt to settle the dispute between world superpowers over West Berlin (an agreement which should have been made before Khrushchev made the journey) one key event includes a whiny fit from the Soviet leader after a planned trip to Disneyland was put on hold because of certain security concerns. Apparently the book upon which this film is based, K Blows Top, takes its title from the New York Daily News’ headline after the canceled trip to the happiest place on Earth. The book’s subtitle, A Cold War Comic Interlude Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America’s Most Unlikely Tourist gives us an idea of the tone for this film, but a summary below from Publisher’s Weekly gives us a little more insight:
Although Punch magazine famously commented on the humor of Nikita Khrushchev’s desire to visit Disneyland during his 1959 trip to America, Peter Carlson a former writer for the Washington Post, can still mine the tour with hilarious results, due in equal parts to Khrushchev’s outsized provocateur personality and the bizarre and thoroughly American reaction to his visit. Numerous secondary players provide comic support: then vice president Richard Nixon’s fixations on mano a mano debates with the quicksilver premier; Boston Brahmin and U.N. ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Khrushchev’s tour guide, who dutifully filed daily analysis of Khrushchev’s public tantrums; popular gossip columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, who in a noteworthy example of bad taste attacked Mrs. Khrushchev’s attire. A host of other American icons also make appearances: among them Herbert Hoover, Marilyn Monroe, Shirley MacLaine and Frank Sinatra. Although Carlson’s focuses on the comic, there are insights into Khrushchev’s personality, many provided by his son Sergei, now a respected professor at Brown University, illuminating the method in Khrushchev’s madness. All in all, in Carson’s hands the cold war is a surprisingly laughing matter.